Clyde Warrior (1939-1968)
Ethnicity – Ponca
One cannot fully understand the history of Indian Activism in America without knowledge of Clyde Warrior.
Full-blooded Ponca, Clyde Warrior, showed an early gift at retaining traditional songs and dances. He won fancy dance championships.
During the summer of 1961, Clyde took a break from his college studies at Northeastern University (where he earned the Student of the Year award) to attend a National Conference on American Indians in Chicago.
The foot dragging pace of the Indian leaders in attendance there disillusioned him, so Clyde and several other determined Native Youth founded their own organization, the National Indian Youth Council. NIYC felt that most problems effecting Native Americans were symptomatic of a lack of sovereignty. Clyde argued that because Indians were not free to govern their own affairs, they lacked dignity for themselves and the respect of their children. Clyde believed that this lack or self respect led to symptomatic problems prevalent in Native communities, such as self-medication and domestic violence.
NIYC’s warrior mentality, combined with Clyde’s fiercely intelligent speaking skills resonated through many hearts in Indian Country. NIYC quickly became one of the most influential organizations in American Indian politics and preceded a variety or policies and organizations advocating for Native civil rights.
Sadly in July 1968 and at the age of just 29, Clyde Warrior died of alcoholism via liver failure. During the services a close friend described Clyde as “full of thunder, lightning and tears”. His epitaph reads, “A Fresh Air of New Indian Idealism”.